Labor Day 2016: Strategies for Aviation

By Robert Mark on September 5th, 2016 | 8 Comments »

Ed. Note: While this article was originally written back in 2008 and while many of the names of the top folks at the organizations have changed, the issues by and large have not. That said, I believe this is worth a few minutes of your time to think about the role of the labor movement in the U.S. We all know membership is down in 2016, but my real question is whether or not avoiding unions has created a better America. I’m not so sure. I’ve also reprised an earlier Labor Day podcast at the end of the story should you be curious for a little more to chew on. Happy Labor Day to all.

Rob Mark

Labor Day 2008: Strategies for Aviation

There’s nothing quite like Labor Day for a little reflection about the state of business in America.

imageThis year, there’s plenty to give us a moment’s pause too, because short of auto manufacturing, I can’t think of another American industry that is as unionized as aviation. Even FAA employs tens of thousands of union members.

But first a disclaimer. As the son of a union worker and the grandson of the president of a major American labor organization, I grew up listening to labor management battle stories and tales of tactical intrigue, honestly, I read and write about labor because I’m interested.

I also learned in my career that support for a union can be expensive in many ways. Sometimes it translates into alienation at work like friends avoiding you. Sometimes, the action can be much more violent as my family learned long ago. Support for the meat cutters union in the 1920’s cost my grandfather his life.

Despite a bucketful of disagreements with many of the labor perspectives I see plastered around the Internet and in the media, and notwithstanding the fact that I have paid dues to more than a few unions in my time – ALPA, PATCO & NATCA – I still believe the need for unions has not deteriorated in the past few decades.

I think the need is even stronger.

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Oklahoma Small-town Promotes Aviation

By Scott Spangler on August 29th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Image result for stafford air and space museumThe last thing I expected to find on the historic route of US 66 at the edge of the small town of Weatherford, population 10,833 (according to the 2010 census), in western Oklahoma was not only a first-rate air and space museum, but one affiliated with the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. But there it was. And who could miss the F-4 Phantom that is part of the General Thomas P. Stafford Air & Space Museum and Airport.

What’s really interesting about this 40,000-square-foot museum is that it is incorporated with the terminal of the Weatherford Airport (OJA), a city-owned nontower airport with a single 5,100-by-75-foot concrete runway. Guessing that the eponymous airport and museum were named for hometown boy who went to the moon with the Apollo program didn’t demand a degree in rocket science.

Stafford increased the population of Weatherford in 1930, but what was really interesting is that his mother arrived in the state in a covered wagon, most likely with Oklahoma Land Rush into the “Unassigned Lands” in 1889. She lived to see her only child fly into space on Gemini 6 and 9, and to the moon as commander of Apollo X. And I was surprised to learn that his command of the Apollo-Soyuz mission garnered him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Named a Smithsonian Affiliate in 2011, the museum started as a simple display case in the Weatherford Airport Terminal. It now displays more than 3,500 artifacts, many of them having logged real time in the atmosphere and beyond it. A number of them are on loan from the Smithsonian, including the pressure suit Stafford wore on Apollo X. Another surprise is that exhibits cover the spectrum of aviation, from the replica Wright Flyer and Spirit of St. Louis to the expected aerospace artifacts such as an F-86, Mig-21, F-16, and a Titan II rocket, and an Apollo Command and Service Module.

Day5-19Time spent examining the museum’s Smithsonian-quality exhibits is well worth the $7 admission ($5 for 55 & older, AAA members, and military, $2 for students 18 and younger; active duty military and children 5 and younger are free). It presents not only a concise and comprehensive look at aviation; it is an unspoken statement of Weatherford’s appreciation and support of it. In doing a bit more research when I returned home, I learned that the museum is a nonprofit organization owned and operated by the City of Weatherford, Oklahoma. Ever evolving, it is worth a visit just to see the unique display of its most recent addition, an F-104 Starfighter mounted in a zoom-climb outside the museum’s entrance, with its pointy nose aimed skyward. –Scott Spangler, Editor

US 66 Surprises: Heritage In Flight Museum

By Scott Spangler on August 19th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Day2-21On a journey from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, that followed the historic route of what was US Route 66, I kept my promise to heed the little green signs I passed that pointed toward small town airports. Riding down the curving driveway in Lincoln, Illinois, at first the Logan County Airport (AAA) didn’t offer much hope, but when I rounded the curve, there, at the far side of the parking lot, was an A-7 and C-45.

It was one of the aircraft exhibited by the Heritage in Flight Museum. Dismounting to explore, the trim mustard yellow museum building was locked and unattended. The gate in the chain link fence was not locked, and there was no sign telling me to keep out, so I wandered among the other aircraft on display.

Day2-10Parked in the well-trimmed grass on the far side of the narrow ramp were an F-4 Phantom, T-33, and UH-1 Huey. Given the weathered paint, they’d been there for awhile, and I wondered how the the military delivered them for display. Given the 4,000-by-70-foot measurements of Runway 3/21, certainly the Huey could have arrived with no problem. Conceivably the the C-45 Twin Beech could have done the same, and maybe the T-33. But A-7 and F-4 must have arrived on several trucks.

Day2-13Hoping for a look inside I tried each of the building’s doors. All were locked, and I found no sign for the museum’s hours of operation. Perhaps it was like many small town museums, open only on weekends and staffed by volunteers, and I was exploring on Monday.

Finding the museum’s website, the Heritage in Flight Museum is dedicated to the preservation of aviation history from all military conflicts back to World War I, fought a century ago. “These mementos have been donated by both veterans and their families.”

Day2-15The website offered this small town take on gaining access to the museum’s inside exhibits: “We currently don’t have a set hours of operation but most generally there is someone here on Saturdays between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. If no one answers the phone or no one is there please call  1(217)953-4118 and when they answer let them know you are wanting to see the museum and then they should tell you if they will be able to come right away or give you a time frame as to when they will be there to show you  around and answer questions. We greatly appreciate your visit and apologize if no one was available to show you the Museum. The static displays outside are always available for your viewing.”

Day2-19It was nice to learn (after the fact) that in poking into the corners around the adjacent hangar and light tower, I was not trespassing. Where the chain link fence met the hangar I found an extraordinary artifact; it was the right size and shape for a 16-inch naval round for the big guns on US battleships like the Missouri, Iowa, and New Jersey. On the other side of the fence were four more rounds strapped to pallet . If a veteran donated them, he was a world class collector of military mementos during his service.

The working 800 million candle power World War II searchlight, which is available “For Hire,” the website said, much have been inside. I wonder what other treasures lay hidden on the other side of those locked doors. This discovery will have to wait until the next time I pass this way. Route 66 beckons and holds the promise of more small town airport surprises to the west. – Scott Spangler, Editor

Back Corners: EAA AirVenture Encore

By Scott Spangler on July 30th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

AV2-157The EAA AirVenture grounds on the Wittman Regional Airport cover a vast area. It is a hike and a half to reach its back corners, but it is worth it because it is where the interesting airplanes seems to be. Take this skeletal Cub-like airplane made of aluminum, steel tube, and carbon fiber, which was among the other Valdez STOL aircraft at the south end in the Ultralight area.

It is called Lil’ Cub, and it was designed and built for one reason, to take off and land in the shortest possible distance. Light weight helps its achieve this goal. The wings have no end plates and, if you’re tall enough, you can look down them to the wing roots. The leading edge slats and Fowler flaps are made of carbon fiber.

Unlike other Cub-like airplanes, this one has but one seat. To keep the center of gravity in place, it wears a carbon fiber fuel tank like a backpack behind what passes for a cockpit. Bare tubes connect the tail feathers to the rest of the airplane. Maybe this airplane’s Momma was a Cub and its Daddy was a Bell 47 helicopter. That may be why it gets off and on the round in 50 feet, give or take a few depending on the wind. I didn’t get to see it fly, at least not in real time. EAA did a nice video on it, so that will have to suffice.

AV4-4Way up north, in homebuilt camping, I came across this Breezy, an iconic Oshkosh airplane you don’t see very often. And this model is new construction! According to the prop card, it made its first flight in 2015, and the builder flew it to Oshkosh from New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Mentioning the airplane to a friend who also like to explore Oshkosh’s back corners, he met the pilot, who told him that it took some 20 hours and three or four days to make the trip in the no-cockpit airplane.

AV4-15The theme here, it seems, is minimalism in aviation. And this GlaStar builder lived it for his week in Oshkosh. No fancy tent for him. Just a tarp over the wing, a short-legged cot to keep his sleeping bag off the grass, and a small fold-up table for his one-burner stove, lantern, and blue 2.5 gallon water jug. According to the prop card, he’d logged more than 1,000 hours in his homebuilt, and from the tautness of his tarp, it was clear this wasn’t his first campout. Curious to see how he fared with all the rain that greened up the Oshkosh grass at week’s end, I leaned in and then withdrew dry fingertips from his sleeping bag.

The good news is that a dome of high pressure is pegged to Oshkosh this Saturday morning, and pilots are taking advantage of it and heading for home. It’s about time for me to do the same. –Scott Spangler, Editor

Hump Day: EAA AirVenture Part 2

By Scott Spangler on July 27th, 2016 | Comments Off on Hump Day: EAA AirVenture Part 2

When Mother Nature cooperates, Wednesday is traditionally the day that those who arrived at EAA AirVenture last weekend leave town, and those who will go home this coming weekend arrive. That sort of happened today, but Mom’s rainy tantrum demanded some modifications (and patience).


The good news is that the clouds lifted enough for the air show to happen, and the best part of it was the second flight of the Martin Mars. As it did on its first flight during Monday’s show, it dropped about 7,500 gallons of Lake Winnebago on the grass next to Runway 18/36 on Wittman Regional Airport. Fortunately, the woman in front of me didn’t need her umbrella.

The photographer, who apparently thought it would be a good idea to try and capture an image from directly under the Mars’ flight path, on the other hand… Whoever was narrating the drop noticed the shooter and exploded in honest laughter. The camera that fed the flight line jumbotron and zoomed in on the photographer who was wading through knee-deep water.

Unfortunately, I was otherwise occupied for Wednesday’s drop, but instead of using a photographer as an aiming point, they set off some pyro for the Mars to extinguish.

Wednesday’s changing of the guard is a good time to see what’s new in the four main exhibit hangars. Nothing jumped out at me except the half dozen hawkers that wanted to clean my glasses with their magic juice that not only cleaned my lenses but protected them from finger smudges and fogging. Most of them were in Hangar D, which is next to the Fly Market, and it must be the portal to inside exhibit space for these vendors.

AV1-177Aviation vendors in Hangar D were far and few between, and this seems be a sign that the aviation industry continues to shrink. And we’re getting older. Roughly half of Hangar D’s East wall was a carpeted rest area lined with comfy chairs and love seats, and most of them were occupied. It was another reminder of my mortality, so I went in search of the next generation of aviators.

As expected, I found them at the Drone Cage at the EAA Gateway Plaza. What I did not expect was that the Drone Center was half the size of last year’s facility. Not only was it larger last year, it was filled with vendors, on Wednesday a year ago, it was it was just a few fish shy of sardine occupancy. This year there was room to roam with distraction with little chance of bumping into someone.

AV3-45Going out the back door of the Drone Center led me to the Innovation Center, where I saw the coolest thing ever – the Wyp (pronounced whip) Aviation Wingboard. Think wakeboard for an airplane. Yup, an airplane. Wyp Aviation’s website has some interesting videos of its aerodynamic tests. Not that I’d every want to give it a try, but the Wingboard is still the coolest thing I’ve seen so far this year, after the Martin Mars in action, that is. – Scott Spangler, Editor

Zero Day: Before EAA AirVenture Starts

By Scott Spangler on July 24th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Since 1970, when EAA moved its annual convention to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, it has tried starting the event on different days of the week. But finding a day that suits everyone’s schedules is an impossible task because there are really three different groups of participants. There are those who attend the first half of the show, others who arrive midweek for the second half, and the worker bees, the exhibitors and word merchants like me, who arrive early and leave after it is all over.

JW AV0-2For all three, EAA has achieved the perfect start date: Monday. That allows everyone to travel the weekend before AirVenture begins, and Sunday is Zero Day, when exhibitors make their last push to get everything unloaded and set up before the the show starts on Day 1, Monday, July 25.

Everyone has their own Zero Day Ritual, and mine is checking into Press Headquarters to take one last look at the press conference schedule board, but mostly it is to say hi to Livy Trabbold. who’s been at the Press HQ counter for nearly a quarter century. I’m not a superstitious guy, but the two three less then stellar conventions always happened when I didn’t stop by to say hi to Livy before I started work. It is her bright, big smile that sets the right mindset for the week to come.

In the proper frame of mind, I set out to explore the field, to see what’s changed and what interesting airplanes have arrived. Given Mother Nature’s hot and humid and thunderstormerous tantrum last night, there were few airplanes on the field. Homebuilt parking was almost empty, as was Warbirds. The World War II reenactors, who rode out the storms in their cotton canvas tents were still soggy. Vintage parking was better populated, but random questions to people sitting under their wings revealed that most of them arrived before the storms. At the south end of the airport the ultralight folks were unloading their trailers under an overcast sky.

JW AV0-3Working my way back to show center, I explored the outdoor exhibit areas. Unless you want to become one with a forklift, it’s good to keep your head on a swivel. And don’t stand in one place too long, or someone will give you a box to carry. And it may just be my imagination, but in watching everyone set up, it seems that the tie wrap (or zip tie) has replaced duck tape as the go-to fixit fastener. Most the the exhibitors have returned to their traditional AirVenture locations, but the two-story HAI tent that dominated Wittman Road, which parallels the flight line was gone. ONE Aviation, with its second-floor deck, occupied part of the space, and the NBAA tent was next door. And if anyone is looking for a long-term basket case, this Canadian Harvard was in the Fly Mart area.

Just after noon, the clouds started to thin and separate, and the airplanes started to arrive. I’ve been watching airplanes arrive for along time, and I always marvel at the steady efficiency of the flight paths. That seemed absent this afternoon. Maybe it was 36 hours of pent up eagerness caused by the weather, but the airplanes were all over the place. I don’t remember the last time I saw a go-around, but today I saw four in about 15 minutes. Standing next to some spectators with a radio listening to the tower, I had to walk away when I heard the tower controller’s voice go up an octave or two and the speed of his words increase by a factor of four. Order was restored several hours later, when the flight of 36 RVs came across in a neat formation and broke off in flights of four for their landing breaks with ordered precision.

JW AV0-4But that’s the way it goes sometimes. Zero Day is for working out the bugs. When Vickers Aircraft didn’t shop up for its scheduled lunch and press conference (and not many member of the media showed up either, which is unusual when lunch is being served), I opted for some ice cream. It was a quickly melting leaning tower of soft serve the demanded immediate lingual alignment. Given the line behind me, the soft server will certainly improve with practice.

And so will the aircraft marshaling crew in Warbirds. This HU-16 Albatross was taxiing under its own power, until it was clear that its wing would not clear the tail double tail of the PBJ (B-25) out of the frame to the left, and this Air Force Cessna 310 now in the shade of its right wing. Ultimately, they made the right decision. They shut it down and called for a tug. On this Zero Day, Oshkosh certainly lived up the adventure half of its name. –Scott Spangler, Editor

Want to Fly at AirVenture?

By Robert Mark on July 21st, 2016 | 1 Comment »

redbird ldWant to Fly at Airventure?

Is there anything sadder than a bunch of pilots standing around watching a handful of other aviators fly past looking like they’re having all the fun? Ho hum.

But it happens to all of us at AirVenture … every single year.

But this year, there is an option sure to plant a big smile on the face of any aviator, even if you’re only a student pilot … a visit to the EAA’s Pilot Proficiency Center at Four Corners, right in the middle of all the AirVenture action.

Inside you’ll find three dozen or so volunteer instructors – me included – just waiting to guide you through any of the 31 aviation adventures pre-programmed into one of the 14 Redbirds simulators on hand. Because we know that scenario-PPCbased flight training yields the best pilots, we’re offering you a chance to really improve your stick and rudder skills flying the simulator’s Cessna 172 down to a soft landing on a 40-foot wide runway with a crosswind, or into a small grass strip surrounded by hills, or try an IFR approach to minimums at Long Beach, or practice
accuracy landings for The Ohio State competition or fly an actual missed approach at John Wayne airport and … and … I need a break.

There are simply too many great flying adventures to try and name them all. And all you need to do is step through the door of the Pilot Proficiency Center between 9 am and 5 pm. Best of all, everything is free, although flying is scheduled on a first come first serve basis.

As if the chance to try a few incredible flying adventures, one-on-one with some of the best instructors around for guidance might not be enough for some, those of you lucky enough to fly with me will leave wearing one of our coveted Jetwhine Jetwhine Buttonbuttons … OK, I think they should be coveted, but I’m biased. I’m only volunteering for the PPC’s afternoon shifts, but if you find me somewhere on the EAA grounds through Twitter @jetwhine, I’ll betcha I can rustle up a few Jetwhine buttons for you too.

Here’s a little more PPC info as Flying magazine saw it.

See you next week at #OSH16

Rob Mark, Publisher

AirVenture Anticipation: Meeting the Martin Mars

By Scott Spangler on July 18th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Coming face-to-face with a truly rare airplane is one of aviation’s singular rewards. And to actually see it fly, oh, be still my fluttering aviation geek heart. The Martin Mars is coming to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and for the first time since I don’t remember when, I will secure a prime spot on the flight line when it appears on the air boss’s schedule. When it is not flying, the huge four-engine flying boat will be bobbing somewhere on Lake Winnebago, and I must find the spot that will let me watch its transition from a liquid fluid to the vaporous fluid that sustains life—and powered flight.

Being the last flying example of the five Martin Mars ever built makes the airplane rare. What makes it special, at least to me, is that it closes the circle, as large flying boats go, with my first quest to see a unique and formerly unseeable airplane, the Hughes H-4 Hercules, more commonly known as the Spruce Goose, because the two airplanes are related, in a way. Either by design, in the H-4’s case, or ultimate mission, for the Mars, both of them were cargo carriers safe from marauding submarines, albeit in different oceans.

Needing to get material across the Atlantic, where German U-board wolf packs roamed, the War Department issued a requirement for a flying cargo ship, preferably made of something other than the “strategic materials” of aluminum and steel. The contract for the Mars, originally designed as a Navy patrol bomber, was issued in 1938. A scaled up version of Martin’s twin-engine PBM Mariner, it first flew in 1942, about the time the War Department let the contract for the Hercules.

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H.R. 636 Will Help Fix ATC Staffing, I Hope

By Robert Mark on July 8th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

I’d like to interrupt your afternoon for just a minute before you head out the door for the weekend. Congress is expected to vote next week on another FAA funding extension – H.R. 636 – and the industry’s hoping it’s all thumbs up … but not just because a majority vote will keep the agency’s lights on until October 2017. Passage of H.R. 636 will also help the FAA fix a staffing crisis it created all by itself a few years ago, even though the agency hiring system in place at the time worked just fine. A quick review of the problem.

NATCAThe National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) last week detailed how passage might affect the hiring crisis the FAA created in December 2013.

“The number of fully certified controllers working today is at a 27-year low, a crisis made worse by FAA’s inability to meet its own hiring goals in each of the last seven years. NATCA believes FAA must take a holistic, collaborative approach to resolving these staffing concerns. If passed, the extension as drafted would streamline the hiring process by allowing experienced controllers to be hired quickly; military veterans and graduates of schools in FAA’s Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) would also be hired more expeditiously. CTI graduates and veterans would be considered in a separate pool from the general public. The extension would also increase the maximum entry age for a controller with 52 weeks experience to 35 years of age, another provision we applaud. Similar language sponsored by Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Sean Patrick Maloney in H.R. 5292 has received strong bipartisan support, with 237 co-sponsors.”19150871644_5ebf5b5fa4_z

Of course there are other significant industry reasons Congress needs to pass the FAA extension as the NBAA‘s president Ed Bolen added.

“This extension is also important because of what it includes, and what it leaves out. For example, we are pleased that the bill reflects some key general aviation priorities, such as the inclusion of third-class medical reform for pilots of small aircraft, and provisions focused on the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the airspace. Equally important, the bill does not include risky proposals for creating a privatized air traffic control system, funded through new user fees. Clearly, our community’s tremendous mobilization against ATC privatization funded by user fees has made a difference.”

That means it’s time to hit the NBAA’s Congress list and tell your Representatives to say “Yes” to H.R. 636 and say “No,” by the way to H.R. 4441, the proposal to privatize ATC and pay for it with user fees. It took just two minutes of my time to send a letter. BTW, the letter’s function offers you a chance to customize the content, so be sure and add this sentence … “Passing H.R. 636 will also help fix the ATC staffing crisis the FAA created by changing its hiring standards in December 2013.”

You’re now free to return to goofing off the rest of the weekend. Thanks.

Rob Mark, Publisher

Wisconsin Flying Hamburger Social Unites Airports & Gives Pilots a Reason to Fly

By Scott Spangler on July 4th, 2016 | Comments Off on Wisconsin Flying Hamburger Social Unites Airports & Gives Pilots a Reason to Fly

Brennand-6Employing social media, airports across Wisconsin have taken the $100 hamburger flight to the next level with the Wisconsin Flying Hamburger Social. They divided the state in to eight regions or “branches,” with an airport in each of them holding a social every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., or until the food runs out.

The group’s mission statement is concise: Bringing Wisconsin Aviators Together. I’ll say. I attended my inaugural social at Brennand Airport (79C), about 20 minutes from home. I learned about it through the airport’s Facebook post on the event.

Stacks Image 2257Speaking of which, pardon this tangential rant: social media is an excellent way to unite and inform aviators and those whose live around them. So why don’t airports, as a group, make better use of it, especially Facebook? Don’t they realize that everyone who belongs to an airport’s online community is another pebble of promotion that emanates in concentric circles through the vast pool of potential aviators who are their friends? Come to think of it, I think Rob had a rant or two about this same issue on Jetwhine as well.

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